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Menai Meeting with Rowena Wallace on conservation of Big Island, Saturday 11 May

22 Apr 2019 3:26 PM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is running a major conservation project which aims to re-establish suitable habitat for seabirds along coastal NSW. The 5 Islands off Port Kembla are a current focus, particularly Big Island.

Menai Wildflower Group is hosting a talk by Rowena Wallace, a ranger in charge of the project and it is her enthusiasm that is attracting many volunteers and outside funding. Hear her speak at Menai Wildflower Garden meeting on Saturday 11 May at Illawong RFS. 

See here for event information: 

Information about Big Island

  • 17.7 ha
  • Habitat and breeding site for the vulnerable sooty oystercatcher
  • Breeding site for wedge-tailed shearwater and short tailed shearwater
  • Breeding site for Little Penguins
  • Former Breeding site of White-faced storm petrels

This island was farmed for some years and is now totally over run by weeds – particularly kikuyu and Morning Glory. These weeds are problematic for the burrowing seabirds because the tendrils can get wrapped around the birds wings as they try to negotiate their way into or out of their nests hollows. The ensnared birds can face a slow death from dehydration and starvation.

The successful removal of these weeds from the island is a long-term project that is well underway. Initially herbicide was sprayed from helicopters over large areas. After the waist high weeds died and collapsed smaller areas were hand sprayed and planting commenced with plant species friendly to nesting birds that probably inhabited the island before humans interfered (there are no records of what was there).

Rowena Morris (PhD) is the ranger in charge of the project and it is her enthusiasm that has attracted many volunteers and outside funding. She has driven the project to the stage that endangered birds such as the White-faced storm petrel that have not nested there in 50 years have been seen back on the island. 

While progress is promising it is still early days. With a weed infestation of this magnitude plus the logistical problems of island work it is likely to take 10 + years of continuous work to complete. 

Rowena will be talking at a special Menai Wildflower Groups meeting at 1pm Saturday the 11 May. She will be joined by Chris Lloyd on the importance of this project to seabirds and also Lloyd Hedges on MWG’s involvement.


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